Feel Electric is a novel fitness provider offering 20 minute sessions using Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS). They explain that clients can expect to ‘tone, firm and lose weight in just one session a week’.
Feel Electric is making the most of the interest in EMS, launching studios across Yorkshire to offer clients the opportunity to use EMS to help them boost their fitness.
Their concept gym launched in Harrogate in April 2021 and arrived in Leeds a few months later, with studios opening in Roundhay in August 2021 and in Horsforth in January 2022. I was invited to try a session at the recently opened Horsforth studio.
What is Electro Muscle Stimulation?
Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is the elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses. It has been gaining more attention over recent years for its potential to help people to gain strength, tone up and even lose weight. Other uses of EMS include boosting flexibility, reducing muscle spasms and helping with recovery after injury or illness.
The Feel Electric Experience
On arrival at the Horsforth studio, which is located on Town Street, my boyfriend (who I had persuaded to join me) and I were welcomed by a member of the Feel Electric staff. We were both impressed by the space, with the large windows to the street and the three machines facing the wall. Within minutes of arriving, we were taken through to another room, where we were asked to stand on a machine that assessed our body composition. After a few technical difficulties with the readings from the machine, we were shown our results and the trainers explained what they meant. I took mine with a pinch of salt as I am aware of the limitations of body composition readings from machines like those at Feel Electric. But I can appreciate that having the opportunity to take measurements regularly to record progress over time is helpful for those with clear goals.
Next, we were given tight-fitting t-shirts, shorts and socks which we had to wear for the workout. I can’t say that it was the most attractive outfit, but we were told that it would help the electrical impulses to reach our muscles. On top of the shorts and t-shirt, we put on a special jacket and arm, leg and bum straps. They were put on pretty tightly and had special connectors which were joined to the bodytec equipment that would later be used to send low frequency electrical impulses to our muscles.
Once connected, we tried out the electric stimulation, testing different levels to determine what we could handle. It felt weird to start with. A little like the start of pins and needles. But, after I got used to it, I quite enjoyed the feeling. The workout itself lasted only 20 minutes and involved a series of low impact moves like squats, lunges and core contractions. The trainers controlled the EMS delivered throughout the session, seeing if we could push the level a bit harder as we progressed.
I had fun trying out Feel Electric. Although the session didn’t push me that hard, I am aware that I am relatively well trained and as such I think that the EMS style workout would work better for me as a recovery session rather than for fitness. I did appreciate the support from the trainers during the session and liked having someone there to check on my technique and to encourage me to push harder.
In terms of the benefit of the EMS itself, I am less convinced. On their website Feel Electric boasts that with EMS, you can expect to ‘transform your fitness with regular workouts of just 20 minutes a week’. To me, this sounded too good to be true, but I kept an open mind – at least until I tried it out for myself. Although I had fun trying out EMS and I thought that the staff were friendly, I am not convinced by the impact of EMS on fitness, toning or strength – well at least not without also making significant dietary and activity commitments outside of the EMS sessions.
To see if this feeling was valid, I did some reading to see what the research says. It appears that whilst there is some evidence to suggest that EMS can help with recovery and may support people to make improvements in body tone (but likely only temporarily), there is less evidence for changes to body weight or girth reduction (e.g. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/consumer-products/electronic-muscle-stimulators).
Despite my reservations, I would say that for those just getting into fitness, EMS could be a good addition to, and an enhancement to your training plan, offering a low impact, low intensity workout, under the supervision of trained staff.
Photographs: Gemma Bridge in action.